SID DRAPER left last week's AFL life members function with more than a prestigious scholarship. The promising midfielder went back to South Australia with a motto that will stick with him on his football path.
Draper, who is eligible for next year's AFL draft, was named the recipient of the AFL life members scholarship, a $10,000 grant that assists him with his journey on the way to the top level with his education and development. Previous winners have been No.1 picks Sam Walsh and Lachie Whitfield and this year's likely first selection Harley Reid.
"It was awesome, it was an unreal experience and just being able to win that award was pretty incredible. I looked at some of the previous winners of the scholarship and it's really prestigious,” Draper told AFL.com.au.
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"It's pretty inspiring to be able to follow in their footsteps and I was able to meet all the life members which was probably the best part of it considering they're all icons of the game and have done such great things."
But the biggest highlight was still to come and will stick with Draper, a tough, consistent and productive midfielder who was named an All-Australian this season as a bottom-ager and also claimed South Australia's most valuable player award at the under-18 carnival.
"I got to meet Terry Daniher, Mike Fitzpatrick and John Nicholls. 'Big Nick' is a pretty big icon of my family because dad went for Carlton. I got a lot of good advice from them. Dale Weightman told me 'Clean hands is the key to being a great player'. I wrote that on my wrist in the Grand Final on Sunday."
A couple of days after the function, Draper played for South Adelaide's under-18 side in its grand final against Sturt last week. His Panthers won by two points, with Draper's 21 disposals, three clearances and a goal seeing him named best on ground. He did it with the words of former Richmond gun Weightman's words ringing in his ears.
"Every week I do a mental reset and don't leave it up to other people to take control in my mind and I figure out what I want to do. Specifically, for the grand final it was to play my role and be clean and do everything and when I get my chance to take the opportunity," Draper said.
Sid Draper takes out the Alan Stewart Medal for Best on Ground 🏅 pic.twitter.com/n0TC2mSsYy— SANFL (@SANFL) September 17, 2023
"I definitely think that (writing the clean hands note on his wrist) will be a recurring thing for me now."
He will get to do it one more time this year, with Draper set to play in the under-17s futures game on Grand Final day at the MCG. The clash, which will see teams named after retired greats Joel Selwood and Nic Naitanui (another previous recipient of the life members scholarship), will be a final audition for Draper before he gets into his draft year.
"I'm still processing it. To be able to play on an AFL ground like the 'G and to watch the Grand Final afterwards as well is so special and an unreal experience," he said.
It will top off a big season for Draper, who also showed his ball-winning traits with South Adelaide's senior team this season and will see him start next year as a top-10 draft candidate. He is aiming to follow his older brother into the AFL, with Arlo being drafted by Collingwood in 2021.
The pair had both played soccer as youngsters before jumping into their respective footy careers, with the younger Draper determined to break into the AFL.
"I've been super proud of him to be able to get to an AFL club," Draper said. "It's been a pretty funny one. We both came from soccer, but when I first came from footy he told me and mum and dad that I was hopeless and I had no chance of doing anything with footy. I've never let him forget that."